No chairs were thrown, but it was a good meeting, even for ghosts

No chairs were thrown, but it was a good meeting, even for ghosts
Delegates during a nominations session at the African National Congress 9th provincial conference in East London on 08 May 2022. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick)

Even though Rama Soft wasn’t there till it was over, the ANC Eastern Cape conference was thrilling for all factions.

Oh, how exciting was the ANC’s Eastern Cape conference! I speak as a ghost member, but it was still very exciting. One lot of office-bearers suing another lot of office-bearers, right in the middle of the conference! Only one court case, but still … And no chair-throwing, which is usually a highlight of an ANC regional conference, but that’s okay. If a chair were thrown at me, it would pass right through me — because, as I said, I’m a ghost.

Actually, I used to be a ghost worker for the municipality here in Mthatha before I became a ghost member of the ANC. I don’t know who got my salary because, of course, I was signed up to work there only after I died, but I’m sure it went to a good cause. And I don’t know, now that I’m a ghost member of the ANC, who paid my membership fee, but that surely goes into the coffers of the provincial ANC, so that’s also a good cause.

There was much contestation, as we ghosts like to say, at the conference. Shouting, screaming, and of course singing — singing and singing! Unfortunately not Umshini Wam, which is my favourite ANC song, as popularised by our great and glorious chart-topping pop star, Jacob Zuma. But the singing was so emotional I’d have shed a tear if ghosts could shed a tear.

I think the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal has appropriated Umshini Wam for itself, and it’s now the theme song of that province. And other provinces don’t want to tread on the toes of KZN — you know how easily offended they are there, and how quickly they haul out their old AK-47s from where they were buried in the Harry Gwala years to settle an argument.

I’m just a little confused as to why, when we used to sing Umshini Wam, nobody actually handed over a machine gun for use at whatever event was on. They could’ve been used to fire shots into the air, like they do at funerals for dead members of the MK Military Veterans Association, or to liven up a conference — imagine the mayhem when an AK starts shooting and the leadership on the stage have to duck for cover! Oh, we’d laugh our heads off. That would be such fun.

Nearly as much fun, I feel, as busing in some Cosatu workers to sing the president off the stage if he so much as dares to lead a Workers’ Day rally in an area where they have turned against the ANC — just because the president encouraged the crackdown on a few miners back in the Marikana days.

Presidents shouldn’t have to answer for the murder of 30-odd people, really. Presidents usually murder hundreds more people than that, if they get the chance.

Or maybe it was a faction of the ANC opposed to the presidential faction that bused themselves to the rally to yell at the president. Factions are also such fun — they generate all the shouting and screeching at these conferences, especially when they’re screaming “Unity! Unity!”

Not that we got to see the president here till it was all over. Until the end, Rama was absent — we call him Rama Soft, or just Margarine. I suppose he was too busy doing that nice petrol deal with the Russians. Instead, we got Gwede Mantashe, who’s no margarine. No, he’s the full cholesterol-soaked butter. He’s all animal fat.

Of course, Gwede’s the one who said that if any ANC members sue the party for this or that they will be expelled at once, but we don’t listen much to what Gwede says. Usually, you can’t understand what he says, anyway. Most of it sounds like “Huurrghh, huargh, harrumph”, even when he’s telling us how the needs of village communities on the Wild Coast, or for that matter on the Tamed Coast, are as nothing compared to the interests of mining giants who will strip out all the valuable minerals, or frack the gas out of the dunes, and funnel huge amounts of money into the pockets of some millionaire Australians — minus the million or so paid directly to the ANC, that is. For election purposes.

Anyway, I enjoyed the conference, as I said. Being a ghost member means you are in, then you are out, then in again, depending on who can validate their branches’ membership lists. I can’t remember which branch I belong to, but there was so much huffing and puffing about memberships and fees that everyone got confused and went off to the nearest shebeen for a drink.

When we got back to the conference, well lubricated by three or four ghost quarts of Black Label, everything seemed to have calmed down. I overheard someone say money had changed hands, and some photocopies of membership lists from 1997 were passed around, so obviously a resolution was found. And conferences are for resolutions, no?

I’m so pleased that we were then able to proceed with the conference without delay and elect someone and their cronies to leadership positions. It doesn’t really matter who is in those leadership positions, because nothing changes afterwards.

Whoever it is just says the same old things about development and transformation and empowerment that they’ve been saying for about 30 years. But it’s essential that our liberation struggle has some leaders to hold the space — at least until they are forced to resign because they stole some money or signed off on a corrupt contract. That’s the renewed ANC for you!

Speaking of money, I wish they’d paid some of that ghost money into the health department’s account, because then maybe I would have been treated properly at Mthatha General Hospital and I wouldn’t be a ghost today. This was long before Covid-19, which would have been a good excuse. But the fact is I had something wrong with my insides and I died on the fourth day of waiting in the queue at casualty. The doctor on duty was being treated for a cracked coccyx because he slipped on a smear of shit on the floor of the toilet when he tried to take a pee.

But let’s not speak of unhappy things. We had an exciting conference, and that’s what matters. Even to ghosts. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.


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